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TRANSIT New Music: Corps Exquis and Success

September 12, 2013

The 2012-2013 season was an exciting one for TRANSIT New Music. Over the course of the year, we were able to both undertake some exciting special projects and to strengthen our long-term programming.

A major achievement was the recording and release of Corps Exquis on the New Amsterdam Records label. This recording was the culmination of a project with composer Daniel Wohl that we have been working on for several years. What began as a relatively short set of multimedia works created in a collaborative process between the ensemble, Daniel Wohl, and a collective of NYC-based video artists, eventually blossomed into an intricate and immersive sixty-minute work of electro-acoustic music. The album was recorded during the winter, and ultimately involved the contributions of some unbelievably talented colleagues on select tracks (So PercussionJulia HolterAaron Roche). Since its release, response to the album has been great.  Tracks from the album recently made the “heavy rotation” top ten list at National Public Radio, and reviews have been glowing:

New York Times:  “a boldly surreal aural experience”

Pitchfork:  “beautiful and maze-like, with sounds emanating from all directions in your listening space”

Chicago Reader:  “fantastic new album”

NewMusicBox:  “endlessly interesting…a seamless marriage of acoustic instruments and electronics that opens its mouth and sings, up close and personal, in a language that retains its vibrant human energy”

In conjunction with the release of the album, TRANSIT performed two live versions of the full work. At Cornell University, we utilized gallery space at the Johnson Museum of Art to create an installation featuring video monitors, projections, and a live performance of the music. In June, a concert version of the performance was featured in the Ear Heart Music series at Roulette in Brooklyn. Additionally, we commissioned further video art to complement the extended length of the full version of the work to be used in live performance. Video artists included in the project include: Yui KugimiyaSatan’s Pearl HorsesBrina ThurstonAlexis GambisAndrew SteinmetzTeddy Stern, and Antoine Catala. As a result of the positive reaction to the album and the excitement surrounding these live performances, we are looking forward to doing more Corps Exquis performances next season.

Another special project that was a highlight of the season was our collaboration with electronic artists Laurel Halo and Julia Holter to create a performance work for the Ecstatic Music Festival. This project ties into TRANSIT’s long-standing commitment to working both with artists from outside the (sometimes narrowly-defined) new music community and to our advocacy of experiments in electro-acoustic music. In the past, we have worked with artists who have developed a wide array of approaches in incorporating acoustic instruments into sound art and electronic music (and vice-versa). This project was based on collaborative workshopping and eventually resulted in an evening-length performance piece that drew on the creative and performative strengths of all artists involved. The concert at Merkin Hall was streamed on internet radio via Q2, and you can listen to the live recording yourself here.

In June, TRANSIT premiered a new set of pieces by Australian composer Tim Hansen inspired by the Weimar Republic. The premiere happened before a packed house for Music With a View, a new music series curated by experimental pianist Kathleen Supové.

And in July, TRANSIT was featured as the resident ensemble in the inaugural year of the Wild Shore Festival in Homer, Alaska. We were honored to be featured in the first edition of this excellent new festival and were pleased to perform innovative music for the enthusiastic audiences by composers including John Luther AdamsThomas AdèsSean FriarDavid LangSteven Mackey, and Conrad Winslow. We wish the festival many more years of success and look forward to playing there again in future seasons!

In addition to these special projects, TRANSIT continued and strengthened our existing programming initiatives over the course of the season.

In February, the latest installment of the Spotlight Series featured some of the top new music violinists in the city in an informal gallery performance at Kent Fine Arts in Chelsea. The Spotlight Series is an ongoing initiative of TRANSIT that seeks to give innovative performers in NYC a platform to present informal solo performances of experimental music. While the new music community provides many opportunities for ensemble performances, it is sometimes difficult for solo artists to present new or experimental repertoire in existing forums in New York. This continuing initiative seeks to bridge that gap. February’s concert featured performances by Andie SpringerConrad Harris, Pauline Kim Harris, and Francis Liu.

This season TRANSIT’s original programming initiative, the DoubleBill Series, was revitalized into the new-and-improved DoubleBill Festival. The DoubleBill embodies many TRANSIT goals, by presenting new and recent music by emerging composers from around the world in affordable concerts at venues throughout New York. As in years past, each concert focuses on one particular cultural locale whose latest music is presented side-by-side with music from local emerging composers; and now the series is consolidated into three consecutive days of new music events. This year, programming focused on emerging composers from Australia, Copenhagen, and the Netherlands, and concerts were presented in venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Featured composers included Tim HansenJulian Day, and William Gardiner (Australia); Carsten Bo EriksenEjnar Kanding, and Rasmus Zwicki (Copenhagen); Kate MooreMayke Nas, and Peter Adriaansz (Netherlands); and Pat MuchmoreMatthew WelchAngélica NegrónRyan CarterSean FriarRyan BrownChristopher CerroneJacob Cooper, and Daniel Wohl (NYC). For the first time, a guest artist was also included: renowned pianist Vicky Chow was featured in the Netherlands program. Overall, the transition to a festival format was a big success, and we are optimistic about the sustainability of this initiative and its continuing capacity to provide meaningful contributions to NYC’s new music scene and the cultural environment of the city in general.

Looking back on 2012-2013, we feel very lucky to have had so many wonderful opportunities to expand and refine our mission. We are working hard to meet and exceed those achievements for next season.  We hope to see you at a TRANSIT event sometime soon!